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Feb. 3rd, 2007


Merton on Reading & Weather

Merton, Day 3


Reading ought to be an act of homage to the God of all truth. We open our hearts to words that reflect the reality He has created or the greater Reality which He is. It is also an act of humility and reverence towards other men who are the instruments by which God communicated His truth to us.

Reading gives God more glory when we get more out of it, when it is a more deeply vital act not only of our intelligence but of our whole personality, absorbed and refreshed in thought, meditation, prayer, or even in the contemplation of God.

-- Thomas Merton in Thoughts in Solitude


Following the teaching of Thomas Keating, when I practice Centering Prayer I begin with a prayer expressing to God my willingness to consent to God’s presence and action within.  When I open a book to read, perhaps it would be a good idea to pray in thanksgiving for the faculty of language, for the world of words, for the wisdom of writers, for the intellectual and emotional gifts (memory, reason, compassion, skill) that make us human, and that could not be developed without language.  Yale literary critic Harold Bloom asserts that there is no writer or thinker to rival Shakespeare, with only Dante even in the same league, and that, in some sense, Shakespeare is the creator of our modern minds and culture.  While I dearly love the Bard,  I have to admit that George Eliot and Jane Austen fall more readily to hand when I peruse my shelves.   When I open up King Lear or Middlemarch or Pride and Prejudice it might be good for me to express gratitude for the gift of learning, for the corpus of knowledge preserved for us, for the texts that have not been lost, for the gift of great minds, and the vehicle of writing that provides us with the privilege of drinking deeply from the springs of genius.

                                                                                                … mn


Merton Day 4


"Our mentioning of the weather — our perfunctory observations on what kind of day it is, are perhaps not idle. Perhaps we have a deep and legitimate need to know in our entire being what the day is like, to see it and feel it, to know how the sky is grey, paler in the south, with patches of blue in the southwest, with snow on the ground, the thermometer at 18, and cold wind making your ears ache. I have a real need to know these things because I myself am part of the weather and part of the climate and part of the place, and a day in which I have not shared truly in all this is no day at all. It is certainly part of my life of prayer."

— Thomas Merton in When the Trees Say Nothing: Writings on Nature edited by Kathleen Deignan


As the terrifying reality of global warming begins to take hold more generally in our public and private discourse, the fact that we are all part of the weather is more and more relevant.  It strikes me that this excerpt underscores a profoundly North American aspect of Merton’s spirituality, or at least and aspect more common in cold-weather climes.  The visceral, corporeal urgency of an 18-degree day with snow on the ground leads a spiritually thoughtful person down a path of reflection that would be unlikely to occur in the tropics.  As Garrison Keillor observes, cold weather is a great leveling factor: yes it’s cold out there, but it’s just as cold for everybody else as it is for you, if you’re cold, go put on a sweater, turn DOWN the thermostat, what, are we heating the whole neighborhood here with the doors wide open all day long?   Walking in the bitter, biting cold of a Minnesota night or an Ottawa early morning yanks us sharply back into understanding the fragility and delicacy of our lives, into gratitude for warm houses, for fire, for the means to survive in a hostile climate. 

                                                                                                … mn

Dec. 29th, 2006

Full Moon

The Bird of Dawning

Some say that ever 'gainst the season comes,
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long;
And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, or witch hath power to charm,
So hallow'd and so gracious is that time. 
                               Hamlet 1:1.

Nov. 30th, 2006


Listening to God, Part 2.

At the Name of Jesus: A Three Step Centering Prayer Exercise


Here is a brief exercise in Centering Prayer using the name “Jesus” as a symbol of our intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.  Briefly, the three steps are:


1.     Consent

2.     Breathe

3.     Return


  1. Consent: Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and allow yourself to be loved deeply by God, to be restful and receptive.  Begin silently to repeat the name “Jesus”, with each inward and outward breath, consenting to God’s presence and action within.


  1. Breathe. Be open to the gentle beginning of an attitude of waiting silently on God with loving and receptive attentiveness.  Be open to a feeling of deep rest, quiet and refreshment.  Rest in the silence.  This is the place to stay in and return to, the place of healing, grace, love, goodness.    Breathe in.  Breathe out.  God is here.


  1. Return. When you become aware of a distraction, return ever-so-gently to repeating the name of Jesus, until the sense of deep rest is re-established*. 


At the end of the exercise, spend a few more moments in silent reflection.  You can choose to spend 5, 10 or 20 minutes on the exercise.  While not essential, some find it helpful to set a timer, which frees us from thinking about time.



*  Distractions can include thoughts, feelings, items for your to do list, items for other peoples to do lists, reminders, e-mails, topics, parents, books you’ve read, movies or shows you saw last night, appointments or deadlines you missed, memories, meetings, parents, church, worries, kids, friends, plans, items that need to be planned, siblings, opportunities, news items, controversies, celebrations, obligations and on and on and on.

Nov. 24th, 2006


A Night to Remember

Nov. 23rd, 2006



No Thanksgiving Day Journal Entry would be complete without something about food. As a true New England Anglophile you may have heard of Marmite, perhaps even tasted it from time to time? Marmite is a richly flavorful spread that English people put on toast or crackers. It's made from a variety of byproducts from the brewing process, and includes many important nutrients and vitamins. Many Americans find it rather too intense, and are put off by its dark color (Racism?), viscosity and apparent similarity to axle grease, or used motor oil. Australians have a preference for related products called "Vegamite" and "My Mate" even though Marmite itself contains no beef products, and is certified Vegetarian by the Chaps who Know.

For pictures and more, visit http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/marmite.htm

According to my sister Barbara, the Puzzle Nazi, Marmite has apparently reached gourmet status: the true afficionado searches for the Burton-on-Trent product, probably from a particular year and a preferred side of the brewery. Barbara enjoys Marmite sandwiches for lunch, bread and butter with Marmite thinly spread, in between. When she's having a poached egg for breakfast, she prefers it to be on a piece of toast with Marmite. Other family members refer to this as "Poached Egg on An Oil Change", an apt and convenient shorthand.

Deb asserts that full disclosure should require me to note that many non-UK people, if and when they actually get a taste of Marmite, either throw up or come close to it. Personally, I think that's a little harsh, but does perhaps contain an element of truth content. The Raisins in the Fruitcake again. It occurs to me that maybe even Cous Cous could be rendered acceptable by a spoonful of Marmite. I should also note that Marmite has an honored place on a list Julie maintains entitled "Disgusting Stuff My Father Eats". Near the top perhaps.

So ... raise a glass today to Marmite, official tasty spread of Anglophiles everywhere. Lord Peter almost certainly ate Marmite.

Nov. 21st, 2006


Group Therapy

Group Therapy
"Group Therapy" on Google Video
Very funny group therapy session in which each participant triggers the fears and phobias of others in the session. (In Hebrew, with English subtitles)

Nov. 20th, 2006


Garlic & Sapphires

Garlic and sapphires in the mud
Clot the bedded axle-tree.
The trilling wire in the blood
Sings below inveterate scars
Appeasing long forgotten wars.
The dance along the artery
The circulation of the lymph
Are figured in the drift of stars
Ascend to summer in the tree
We move above the moving tree
In light upon the figured leaf
And hear upon the sodden floor
Below, the boarhound and the boar
Pursue their pattern as before
But reconciled among the stars.

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton, II

Nov. 11th, 2006


Michael Podesta

Word made flesh calligraphy ... lettering that is truly full of grace and truth.

God Says Yes to Me

God Says Yes To Me
Kaylin Haught

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don't paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I'm telling you is
Yes Yes Yes


Nov. 9th, 2006


Why The Cork?

Recently, I had the great good fortune to spend two hours wandering around an exhibit of American paintings and other original art works from the last century or so. It was profoundly enlivening, and put me into a kind of art-stimulated wide-awake trance from which it took a while to emerge. This was somewhat surprising since I really don’t know much about art. However, I have spent some time, over the past ten years or so, learning something about openness and receptivity through Spiritual Direction and Centering Prayer practice. Perhaps the key to my art exhibit experience involves having enough openness, being willing enough to be profoundly affected, perhaps even transformed by the experience. Some of us need lots of help being open, but sometimes opportunities come along and we can receive a rich and unexpected blessing.

My ignorance of the visual arts is gargantuan, but I know just enough to be fully aware of the enormity of what I don’t know. In the vast, heaving oceans of knowledge and experience, my tiny consciousness bobs like a semi-sentient cork in the North Atlantic. Somehow dimly perceiving the incredible depth and power of the tides and swells in which it is carried along, it understands, sort of, that it’s coming from somewhere and will, eventually, be delivered to somewhere else. The cork can only do it’s best to stay afloat, and be respectful of the forces that hold it up and move it around.

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